Before the summer started I had a few goals in mind to work towards. I am happy to report that I have so far accomplished 2 of those goals.
The first goal I would like to share is that I have successfully done my first mountain top landing. Marshall Peak is a great place for PGs to top land and HGs can land there as well, but it is considered to be quite difficult. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time, but I was careful and took my time as I know a bad top landing would be, well um, bad. Flying over Marshall is looks pretty easy, but looks can be deceiving.
One night, about a month ago, after flying a bunch of us went out for Pizza. While eating somehow the topic of top landing Marshall came up and Rob was describing in detail how it’s done. You come in cross wind, kind of behind the peak, and dive at the side of the mountain. It is a pretty steep slope back there so you have to round out aggressively and climb along the steep part of the hill. The ideal landing place is where it starts to flatten out, but before the top of the hill. You don’t want to over shoot.
To add to the difficulty of landing up there, Marshall is also quite thermally so you need to pick your landing time carefully. For the past month or so, towards the end of a flight I would fly over Marshall, look and plan the approach. I felt the conditions and tried to visualize how the approach might go. I have also observed Rob and another pilot top landing while I was setting up on Marshall. Another reason to wait for the right time was that I wanted to make sure there were people up there so that if I broke something, like a downtube, I could get a ride back down. It would suck big time to be up there and not be able to fly down.
There were a few times in the past couple of weeks where it was looking good, but I decided not to try it, mostly because the little man in my head had doubts. Well last Saturday was the day. I was over an hour into the flight, it was after 4pm, there were people on Marshall, Rob was making another trip up there later in the evening, and conditions were nice and smooth. It was pretty crowded up there with PGs so I had extra motivation to not overshoot. I did just like Rob described, dove hard at the hill, rounded out and flared at the top for a nice, smooth, few step landing. It was pretty exciting and as I was walking my wing up to the tie-downs, I shouted “I’m Alive!” I spent about an hour letting my excitement come down, lounging, and chatting with the PG pilots. At about 5:30 Rob shows up with a truck load of pilots and there were surprised to see me. Rob walks over to inspect my wing for signs of a whack, but there were none.
It was pretty exciting and I am glad that I was able to pull it off successfully, but I don’t think that is something I want to do every day. It can get pretty crazy up there and I have heard many stories about top landings gone badly.
The second goal: on Monday I logged my 250th flight, completing the last requirement I needed for Hang 4, so I am now an Advanced pilot. I am hopping there is a fall trip to Yosemite and I will have to get down to Torrey sometime. Who want to join me down there? SG? Jspin? Jason? BobK…. Oh wait … I’m actually not in much of a rush to go down there. I want to fly there on a weekday when it’s blowing like 18+ so it’s a sure thing and there is not much traffic. I am also not too excited about getting harassed but according to Brad that is a fantasy so I should be all good! /sarcasm.
…oh and the consecutive flying days continues. I’m up to 29 days now. Unfortunately I am going to Vegas next weekend so the streak will have to end
Flights - 42 + 7 bunny hill (Since June 26th)
Hours – 44.6
Top Landings – 1
…oh and I finally got my GPS hooked up. He is yesterday’s track, most of it anyways; the battery died some time toward the end of the flight.
I just logged my 194th flight. That combined with bunny hill flights brings my total up to 236 flights, just 14 more for the advanced requirement (250). I have also passed the written exam (on the first try) and did my 3 spot landings. All I need is those 14 flights and I get to brag to my friends that I am Advanced!
I am also have a personal record going for consecutive days flown. Right now it sits at 14 days. I have only missed flying on 2 days this month and my Sport 2 already has over 53 hours on it!
I also wanted to mention that I have re-done my personal web site. . Its nothing fancy, just simple links to what I have. There is also an iPhone version, which will automatically be displayed when you navigate to the site on an iPhone or iPod Touch:
The coolest think about the iPhone version is that I was able to get all my videos up and in a format the the iPhone/iPod Touch can read. They should stream fine over wifi and if you have the new 3G iPhone (and have 3G coverage) they will stream over the cell network too. Its a bit slow over 3G right now, but the videos are definitely watchable. I might be able to compress the videos a bit which will make it easier/faster to stream... Will have to play with it.
That's all for now folks.
Flights - 26 + 7 bunny hill (Since June 26th)
Hours - 24.5
Rounds of Golf Played - 2
Projects Completed - 2
With no school and no work I have no excuses for not actually working on some of the projects I have been meaning to get to. Up first was a boom mount for making cool videos . Thanks to Jeff OB for the inspiration.
I raided Rob McKenzie's hang glider bone yard for some tubbage and came up with a few pieces, an old washout strut and tip batten, that made up the boom. To mount the camera to the boom I just got another Ultra-Pod II [http://www.rei.com/product/777250] and bolted to the end of the boom.
The tricky part was mounting the boom to the basetube. I needed something strong because even though my camera only weighs something like a half pound, it creates a rather large moment when put at the end of a 4 foot boom. I didn't think a vario mount would be strong enough, they are not designed to resist large moments. I cut up a cardboard box and built several mock-ups before finding something that I thought would work and I would be able to build. Here is the bracket:
I machined it down from a solid block of scrap aluminum. Wall thickness is about .25 inch. Pressed, threaded inserts were used because tapping into aluminum is only good for the first time you over tighten the screws. . The holes were precision drilled with a CNC Mill , one in the center and 5 more spaced 30 degrees apart. This allows the boom to be adjusted in 30 degree increments. The grooves on the top are for the zip ties I use to attach it to the basetube.
The mouth shaped grooves were also cut using a CNC Mill. I got a cross-section drawing of the basetube from the WillsWing website and imported it into SolidWorks to trace the profile:
With the help of an experienced machinist, a family friend Larro Russo (Ace Precision Products) we created a CNC program from the SolidWorks drawing using MasterCam. Making the cut proved to be tricky because it was difficult to mount the part in the machine in a way that it did not vibrate too much. We had to take light cuts, 0.050" at a time. Here is a crappy cell phone picture of the cutting in action:
and the Bracket again (I lined the inside of the "mouth" with double-sided tape with the backing still on. This adds some friction, makes a tighter fit and keeps the bracket from scratching up my basetube.):
Next up is the part that joins the round boom with the flat basetube bracket. At first I tried just hammering the end of the boom flat, drilling holes and bolting it down, but it was way to flimsy. So I went over to the scrap metal shop and bought a $5 bar of round aluminum. Cut it down to size and turned it in the lathe so it would fit inside the boom. Then Milled the end flat on both sides and drilled some holes:
here it is assembled and on the glider:
Its a bit wobbly so I tied a string between the camera and the keel where the downtubes join. In this position the string does not interfere with any part of the glider's operation. The string works good at getting rid of the up/down movement, but it still wobbles side-to-side. Its not too bad though as the test video will show .
I decided to try the boom out on the training hill first, but with no Rob around with the Gator I had to do it the old fashion way and hike my glider up the hill. The glider flew fine and I did not notice any trim changes. But then again I was flying faster than trim for the whole flight.
Overall I am pretty pleased at how it came out. I built the bracket in such a way that it could be a sort-of universal mount for what ever in the future I may dream up. I may also build several booms each with a slightly different camera angle (I would like to see more of the wing in the frame.)
Me with my Parents (I was very much hung over from the night before)
and my last day of work was last Thursday. I am officially free for the summer, which means lots of flying! I do not have a job lined up and don't plan on searching for a while. I have some money saved up so I can just relax and enjoy life for a while.
I flew Thursday, Friday, today and you can bet I will be out tomorrow as well.
Me soaring over Marshall Peak:
Landing at Andy Jackson Airpark (note all the new grass!)
A goal of mine for the summer is to get to H4. To get there I need:
-3 spot landings (should be able to get them somewhere in those 45 flights I need)
-pass written test
I'm getting pretty good at spot landing my Sport2, but Rob requires one of the three be from the opposite pattern than what we normally fly (right hand approach in instead of left.) Of my last 2 attempts I was way long on one and a bit short on the other, next time should be just right
Some other things for the summer:
-Build camera booms/mounts for cool pictured and video (in progress...)
-Make more HG videos (in progress...)
-Play some golf. I took a golf class my last quarter in school because I needed 1 more unit so I would be eligible for work. It kinda got be back into golf. I played last weekend with my friend at Camp Pendleton and it was some pretty good times. A little golf in the AM and flying in the PM sounds like a good day to me.
-I am also contemplating a trip up to Point of the Mountain. I have wanted to fly there since I started flying and I probably wont get a better chance than this summer. Maybe if I can sell my Falcon to pay for the trip....
Flights - 3 (Since June 26th)
Hours - 3.4
Rounds of Golf Played - 1
[Currently: Listening to Tom Petty ] My class on Thursday afternoon was canceled (gotta love when the instructor is sick) so with nothing to do that afternoon I decided to head out to the flying site to hang out and watch. It was a nice day, sunny and not too hot. I got to watch the WillsWing pilots test fly a bunch of gliders. (WillsWing is the local Hang Glider manufacturer. They test fly every wing they build.) What a job that would be. Drive up the mountain, fly down, fill out a report, drive back up again. I also met up with a pilot I met online (www.hanggliding.org) named John. He has an excellent write up of his learning experiences that I read through at least a couple of times. http://www.johnwright.com/hanggliding/. His brother was out for a weekend of Hang Gliding fun. There were a lot of people flying that day, more than I have seen before. I was really cool to see all those gliders in the air at once and to meed the pilots later.
Friday I got to do another tandem flight. This was pretty much the same as last time, except I forgot some of the landing procedure (wish I could have less time between lessons) and Rob had to correct me. I got us there though and Rob was able to set it down in a nice no step landing. After that it was break time as John's brother was flying his second radio assisted solo flight. Rob uses the radio to talk you through the landing procedure and guide you in. Then it was off to the bunny hill for my first flights with the Falcon. The Falcon is a good beginner glider but unlike the Condor that I flew last week, it is a real Glider, not a trainer. With the Falcon's smaller wing area it takes more speed to get it in the air, but it is much more responsive to control than the Condor. I also found it much easier to hander on the ground.
There was no babying this lesson, we went right to the top of the 90 foot training hill. It was a little intimidating to stand all the way on the top of the hill with something I have never flown before. I went for it anyways and noticed the more responsive controls right away. I think I even over controlled a little on the first few flights. I soon got the hang of it (no pun) and Rob was little more than just a ride to the top of the hill. He didn't have much to do. I was getting good at maintaining a consistent speed, while keeping the wings level. Once you get low to the ground you have to begin to break by pushing the bar out. Pushing out too much and the glider will rise, so there is a tricky balance. I found myself slowly easing the bar out as I approached the ground, and gradually increased the “bar out” as the speed reduced. I had a few no-so-great landings but I never whacked the nose or flipped the glider (like last week.) I had a couple of real nice no step landing that made me feel quite confident. I was able to get about 15 or so flights in before the sun went down. I was really a lot of fun.
After the lesson we talked about buying equipment and the next lesson. I would really love to buy a nice new shinny glider but I am leaning towards buying a used one now. A new glider would cost me about $2900 and thats without the harness, reserve parachute and helmet. Also if I bought a new glider now I would have to wait a month or two before I could buy the harness and stuff. However I could get a whole setup used for about the same as the cost as a new glider. That would get me flying right away. I would also have to wait until the middle of July before the new gliders are available. So I think at this time it makes more sense to buy everything used and later on upgrade one piece of equipment at a time. I have also started looking at how to store and transport the glider. I should have enough room in my garage for the glider but it may be a tight squeeze. My Dad's Suburban would be ideal for transportation, but I don't necessarily have access to that everyday so I think I might have to build an elaborate rack for my Civic.
I decided that I would not be comfortable to solo on my next lesson. I am not very confident on the approach. I was able to schedule another tandem lesson for next Friday and then I should be ready to solo on Sunday. This will give me only one day between lessons instead of a whole week and I think I will be ready come Sunday.
[Currently: Listening to Gin Blossoms ] My second day of Hang Gliding was long and eventful. It started with another tandem flight. This time Rob put me on the controls much earlier in the flight. He had me fly out towards a location where there is usually some good thermal activity, but we lost about 600 feet of altitude, so he took over. I noticed during this flight that I am not really good at judging the distance to the ground or the ridges of the mountain. After we had climbed back up above the height of the launch I was back in control. Unlike on my first flight, I really felt much more in control. I was getting the glider to go where I wanted it to go and was keeping a steady heading. I was doing really good, we were just flying around having a good time. Rob seemed impressed and told me that if it wasn't for the first 5 seconds and last 20 seconds of the flight (ie take off and landing) he would solo me. He had me fly it all the way down to final approach. This was a little difficult because on the tandem, the instructor is directly in front of the student during landing. I had to look over his shoulder to see where we were going. He coached me about when and where to turn and to keep the speed up. “Speed is your friend” he reminded me. I was able to get us lined up nicely with the LZ and flew all the way until the last 15 seconds or so when Rob took over to put us down. It was a great flight and I gained a lot of confidence. Later Rob told me that he liked how I took the initiative and flew all the way down to final. It seems that most people are either too afraid or just not confident enough. I was feeling pretty good about my abilities to control the glider and I knew that if things we not going so well Rob was right there to take over.
I helped Rob break down the tandem glider and then assemble the big Condor trainer. The Condor is designed to fly as slow as possible to make it easy for the student to learn the low level basics. (http://willswing.com/prod2.asp?theClass=hg&theModel=condor) If there is a steady wind the glider will just hang in the air. You start out low on the training hill just learning to run with the glider and keep the wings level. I had no problems with this so we moved up a few feet. Each flight after that starts a few more feet further up the hill and the air time is a few seconds longer. The object here is to just keep the wings level. As you get up higher on the hill you gain a lot more altitude and you out of the instructor's hands. On the flights with more altitude I had to keep the wings level and the speed up. I found that I would concentrate on keeping the wings level, but forget about speed control. It is definitely a new thing to learn what I see as control in 3 dimensional space. When we drive a car we only have to worry about right/left control, but in a flying machine there is the third dimension, up/down. I think I got the hang (no pun) of this after a few more flights. The last flight from the training hill was at about 85 feet up the 90 foot hill. This time I really got some altitude but came in fast. I must have forgot to push the control bar out and ease out of the speed. I touched down with too much speed and at a bit of a crosswind. The wing quickly got away form me and it flipped over. Some other pilots at the LZ came running over to help me get unhooked and off the glider so we could flip it back over. Later Rob said he was glad that happened, sort of lesson learned the hard way kind of thing. You really have to be in control of the glider at all times or bad stuff like that can happen.
After the training hill flights I took a break while Rob worked with a guy learning to fly a paraglider. This was the guy's third lesson without getting in the air and Rob wasted to get him airborne. I needed the break, lugging that big glider up the hill gets tiering, even though Rob did most of the carrying. After 20 minutes or so the paraglider was in the air and it was my turn again. This time we went to the edge of the LZ which is a very steep 50 foot hill. This was more scary than the training hill because it was so steep. I was a little nervous, especially since I flipped the glider on the last flight, but I stepped up anyway and off I went. I did just fine and after that flight me and the paraglider pilot too turns flying off this spot. Dianne used the Gator to shuttle us back up the the LZ after flying. I had about 10 flights from there and each time I felt I made progress with the last flight being the best. I was flying pretty strait, keeping the speed up and setting down nice and gentle. We flew until the sun went down. I got to fly all afternoon for the price of one lesson, not a bad deal.
After we packed up I made an appointment for another lesson, next Friday afternoon. Rob seemed confident in my skills and next time I will be flying a real glider, Falcon 195 (no more dorky big training glider.) He said that he thinks I am making record progress and that people usually don't fly off of the LZ hill on the first day. He thinks that I may only need one more day of training before I am ready to solo. He made me a deal. If he thinks I am not ready to solo, he will say so and if I think I am not ready, I will say so. After yesterday's flying my confidence level is high so I think I may be ready after next week. It all depends on how I handle the Falcon.
The excitement level just keeps building. I can't wait to order a glider. I can't wait until next weeks lesson. I can't wait to solo! Damn If I can get my H2 rating before school gets out, I can just fly all summer.
I spent a few minutes today figuring out how I am going to fit a Hang Glider in my garage and on top my dad's Suburban. There is a roof on it and I think I can use that with a few modifications. My garage is about 22 feet wide and the Falcon 3 170 is about 18 feet long in the bag, so I should be able to store it.
I would like to buy a new glider, but if a decent looking used one comes up I may go for that. I would expect a first glider to get pretty beat up so used might be a better way to go. Then again I would really like to buy my own shiny new glider. Maybe I will get a new glider and look for a used harness and parachute, then upgrade to a nice shiny new harness later on. All I can really do now is wait, and as Tom Petty said “The waiting is the hardest part.”
[Currently: Listening to Smashing Pumpkins ] Have you ever been so totally obsessed with something that it consumes every conscious thought in your head? Have you ever been so fixated on a goal, a task, event, person or whatever, that it disrupts your ability to complete necessary daily tasks? I am victim to this kind of obsession as I have recently discovered the incredible past time that is Hang Gliding.
I have always wanted to fly in one way or another. I have flown in small private aircraft, sailplanes and commercial airliners. I have also flown remote control aircraft for several years. At one point I thought I wanted to join the Air Force and be a fighter pilot. It wasn't until about three years ago that I seriously started researching Hang Gliding. I'm not sure exactly how it came up, I was probably just googling around and stumbled across a Hang Gliding site. When I found out that there is a world class flying site not but 20 miles from my house I decided to check it out. I went to the field and watched them fly. I talked with a few of the pilots and decided that this was something I wanted to do. But for whatever reason, that I cannot remember, I never pursued it. It is expensive and maybe I didn't really have the money at the time. But thats not like me. If there is something I want, I will save up for it. It wasn't that I was afraid of heights or flying, I had gotten over that long ago. I think that ultimately it was a fear of trying something new. A fear of change maybe. It is strange that change, even good change can be scary sometimes. Or maybe I was just lazy.
A few weeks ago I got a substantial raise at work (gotta thank my supervisor Jim for that.) Whenever I come into a bunch of money I am always thinking of what I can buy. Its usually the same, computer stuff, monitors, laptops, Wii, LCD tv, etc... Its all well and good, but a lot of it is just stuff I don't need. But this time the thought of Hang Gliding re-entered my head and I began looking into it seriously.
The Landing Zone, LZ, near my house is called Andy Jackson Airpark, named after the late Andy Jackson. In 1979 he and his wife bought a piece of land in north San Bernardino California, right at the base of the mountains with the purpose of turning it into a Hang Gliding port. There are a couple of launch sites in the mountains nearby. (For more info on the history of the LZ: http://www.flytandem.com/airpark.htm) The instructor teaching there today is Rob McKenzie. He and his wife Dianne run High Adventure Hang Gliding and Paragliding. (http://www.flytandem.com) According to his website, Rob has conducted over 18000 flights since 1974. (FYI: Hang Gliding is a relatively new form of aviation. The first production gliders did not appear until the early 1970s. More on the history of Hang Gliders: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_flexible_wing_hang_gliding) From what I have gathered on the Internet Rob is one of the top instructors in the country having conducted over 8500 safe tandem (instructor and student on the same glider) flights. I was very confident that he knows his stuff.
I waited until after I got payed last month to call and make an appointment. Unfortunately Rob and Dianne were in Florida and I had to wait another week. I made the call the day they got back and was set go Saturday April 28th. They have you call them in the morning of the flight to make sure the weather is going to cooperate, and it did. Many of the pilots meet at the LZ and carpool to the launch. I was there early but did not mind as it was a typical Southern California day, sunny and warm. The ride to the top was about 30 minutes or so. I was so excited I really don't remember. At the top Dianne had me fill out the typical release of liability form that she referred to as the “murder, death, gore, ahh” form. Or something like that. Rob set up the glider and game me a quick two minute ground school on take off and landing procedures. During takeoff the student holds onto the instructors harness while the instructor holds the glider. To launch you both basically just run off the top of the mountain. There was a decent head wind that day so it wasn't even much of a run. It had to have been only 3 or 4 steps before we were airborne. Right before launch I was definitely nervous. It is quite intimidating standing on the top of a mountain, looking over the edge knowing that soon you will run off of it. Scared or not, there was no way I was backing down from this. The strong headwind meant there was also a strong updraft. The wind hits the face of the hill/mountain/cliff and is directed upwards. You can fly all day in this type of lift, usually called ridge lift. This strong updraft meant we climbed quickly immediately after leaving the ground. The harness holds you tight and you definitely know your going up. I let out a wooooooooa as the quick upward acceleration, combined with the rushing air sound caught me off guard.
The first few minutes of the flight were a bit scary. Looking down 1000 feet or so at the rocky San Bernardino Mountains below had a bit of an 'oh s***' kind of feeling. “I hope this is a damn good harness!” Once we flew around a bit and I got used to what this kind of flying feels like, the fear and anxiety completely disappeared. It was just flying. This was the most unique experience I had ever had. It was at the same time as exhilarating as a roller coaster, and as calm and relaxing as taking a nap in a hammock. This is what flying really is. There is no motor, no fuel, no engine vibrations, no mechanical controls, no instruments*. The only sound is from rushing air.
Rob had me on the controls for most of the flight. I found it more difficult to control than I had imagined. It seemed like it took quite a bit more force than I had thought to get it to turn. Sometimes I found the glider rolling and turning to the right, even when I was trying to get it to go left. I tried to stay on a strait heading for a resistor near the LZ, but often found myself pointing no where near it. I guess I have a lot to learn. When we got too low, Rob brought us in for a landing. He took a fast approach, faster than any other point during the flight. We skimmed along the ground a bit before we slowed enough to set our feet down. A few steps later we were down safely. Rob packed up the glider and at the same time showed me how it goes together. He was in kind of a rush because the other pilots wanted to get back up the mountain for another flight. Before he left I made an appointment for another lesson. (I was suppose to go last Sunday the 6th, but the &*&^$ $Y#@&&!!! Santa Winds were blowing making it a non-flyable day. I get to go tomorrow, Friday the 11th.) When I got in my car to leave I was so happy I literally started laughing. I went from a state of thinking that Hang Gliding was something I wanted to do, to KNOWING that Hang Gliding was something I wanted to do. It felt like a personal victory in a way. I had finally do something that I had always wanted to do. I put aside all other bullshit that is not important and just went for it.
To get back to the whole obsession thing, just about every moment I have not spent in class or asleep since that day I have been on the Internet watching Hang Gliding videos on youtube (there are thousands of them) or reading whatever I can read about the sport. Even now I am writing 2 pages about this instead of working on the multiple writing assignments I have for school. There is so much to look forward to in this sport; my first training hill flights, my first solo, buying my first glider, etc. What I most look forward to is the time when I can grab my glider, strap it to my car and just go flying. But first things first, I gotta learn!
*There is one instrument that most pilots used called a variometer. It measures vertical changes in acceleration. Basically it lets the pilot know when and by how much he/she is rising or sinking. This makes it easer to find and stay in thermals. [img][/img]